January blues is a term we’re all familiar with, but how does it actually affect us?
It’s normal to feel a little bit down after the festive period. Cold weather and strict budgets are just 2 of the things that can get people down, but for some, the first few months of the year can be especially tough and can lead to low moods and feelings of depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is a type of depression that affects 1 in 15 of people throughout winter. Symptoms include fatigue, low mood and a disconnection with daily life.
While the exact cause of SAD hasn’t been proven, it’s thought to be caused by a reduction in the amount of sunlight an individual is exposed to during the shorter days of the year. Light stimulates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain which controls mood, appetite and sleep. A lack of light can affect how the hypothalamus produces brain chemicals such as melatonin and serotonin, which regulate mood and sleep. Therefore, being exposed to darkness for long periods of the day can cause havoc with how you feel.
What can you do to boost your mood?
While not everyone will suffer from SAD, January can still be a tough time, and especially after all the Christmas indulging, a workout may seem like the last thing you want to do, but exercising can actually make a significant improvement on how you feel.
Here are 8 ways that exercise can help you to fight the January Blues, from our fitness partners at Fitness First!
KEEPS YOU WARM
You only have to look outside to realise that January is the coldest month of the year. Swap that fleece-lined onesie for your gym kit and get moving, after a few minutes of fast-paced exercise your heart will be pounding and you will be sweating! Your body temperature should stay high for around an hour after you finish your workout, keeping you warmer for longer and eventually cooling you down to an average temperature.
GIVES YOU MORE ENERGY
Regular exercise will help you combat fatigue and will give you more energy in the long run. If you can’t face the gym after a long day at work, consider waking up and feeling the burn by exercising first thing in the morning.
It only takes around 5 minutes of intense exercise until your brain starts to release mood-boosting hormones, called endorphins, into your system. Considering this, imagine how happy you will feel after an hour-long workout.
GIVES YOU A GOAL TO FOCUS ON
January is often an uneventful time in the calendar, so setting yourself goals and improving your fitness gives you something to focus on. You’ll feel accomplished as you achieve each milestone, which will help to improve your self-esteem and mood.
You are 80% more likely to get a cold during the winter, according to the NHS. Research by Medline Plus has found evidence that people that exercise regularly have stronger immune systems compared to those that do not. A stronger immune system means you’ll have a greater chance at preventing and fighting off illnesses.
SAVES YOU MONEY
The excess of Christmas means that our purse strings are often drawn a little tighter in January. Instead of spending a small fortune going out on the lash with your friends, save money by dedicating your weekends and evenings to training. While it may not appear to be as fun, your bank balance and your liver will thank you in the long run!
COMFORT EAT WITHOUT GUILT
While you may be following a strict diet, there’s no doubt about it, winter makes us want to consume food that isn’t very good for us. Regular exercise means that you can have a cheat day without regret, as the extra calories you consume will be blitzed when you hit the gym.
GET ACTIVE WITH FRIENDS
You don’t have to go solo to get a good workout. Exercising with a friend or joining a class of people is a great way to feel like you’re part of a community, which leads to greater feelings of belonging and happiness.